Saturday, December 13, 2014

Impressions from a Visit to Israel

As blogs go, this one contains little in the way of blog owner's opinion. You can't get away from it altogether as choice of material reflects one's point of view. However, on this blog, I mostly just post materials from around the TIDE world. I rarely argue for my perspective or comment on anything. There are three reasons for that. 1) I want this blog ideally to be a community center for TIDE people and not Yisrael's blog. I feel that by not coloring it with  my perspective, people will feel more that it is a place where they can post their own materials. 2) I don't want to scare anyone away with my particular take on TIDE, which is very much that of R' Joseph Breuer. People today are so easily offended and turned off. As it is the TIDE community is rather small, and by community I mean people who consciously identify with TIDE. I want to encourage participation from people with different approaches to TIDE. 3) I'm not any kind of authority, even on this topic that's so important to me. So I abide by the adage of better to keep silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

However, now and again, why not share my point of view. I can't keep it all inside. So I'm going to share some impressions, gained from my recent visit to Israel. I'm in general pretty ignorant on the goings on in Israel so the following thoughts aren't any kind of analysis of Israel, but rather the impressions of an American who knows little about Israel. So this isn't as much about Israel but about how an American saw Israel. In the end, of course, I'll connect it to Torah Im Derech Eretz. Can't help myself.

In sum, most everything was the opposite of what people said it would be. When will I learn not to rely on the media or people who speak in ignorance. For example, I expected to feel very afraid of the violence there. However, I felt much safer than I do here. With Jews, there's always the danger of a damaging guilt trip, but not so much of getting punched. I expected a heavy military and police presence everywhere I went. However, I saw much less of a police presence and not much of a military one. I expected intimidating and invasive searches before entering any mall or public space. However, I found the door screeners pretty low key and humane.

On the other hand, I had been led to expect affluence and high technology. In reality, there's no comparison to the USA or Western Europe. Similarly, I had been told that 90% of Israelis are fluent in English. I can't comment on the doctors or professors but as for the people in the street, 1 in 10 maybe knew any English. This certainly isn't a dig on their intellectual ability but the fact that language instruction is a mark of affluent countries. In other words, it's a luxury.

I hope this doesn't come across as lashon hara on the country. What they have accomplished there in that little piece of land is incredible. And it does appear a decent place to live. However, I think Americans in trying to persuade people to make Aliyah try to make Israel seem like Silicon Valley. My impression is that Hashem has given us a haven of sorts but that we still are very much in golus and the people carry a heavy load, even a sadness that reminds me of the Pale of Settlement. Certainly, the isolation from the neighboring countries also reminds one of the Pale.

So what's the connection to TIDE? Well firstly, R' Hirsch skepticism about Zionism comes to mind. There are an awful lot of non-observant people over there. It's very strange to see Jews in the Holy Land not keeping mitzvos. And I'm not talking about individual Jews but the general populace. Isn't that why we got kicked out?

But on the other hand, I can see the possibilities for a fuller engagement with TIDE in Israel. As much as I try to feel a partnership with my host society in America, there are limitations when dealing with people of a different value system. And I'm not talking about Christians. If only they were still Christian. I'm talking about a society that, well, you know what I'm saying. Israelis have their schtick but they still are Jews and one feels that even when dealing with the bus drivers, who drive very fast.

So that's all I wanted to say. Now back to posts of quotes and links.


  1. It would be interesting to know whether there is more of a TIDE practice in Israel than in the U.S. I'm not sure if it's even possible to quantify this but it could be having a Jewish state with frum people involved in it's governance is (even inadvertently) a practice of TIDE.

    1. Depends I would think on whether you are refer to practice or consciously identified practice. Perforce, most people engage in Torah Im Derech Eretz but don't necessarily call it that.

  2. Thanks for the post.

    Aren't many of the things you talk about in it related to the local area you are in there? For example, if you were in an area where there is a significant Anglo olim population, English language proficiency would be much greater, than say in a Sephardic development town with many people with North African background?

  3. I'm talking about Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Beit Shemesh. That's what was so shocking.